Headlines – 8/15/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – August 15, 2006

  From the 8/15/06 issue of The Panolian   –   

     Four teammates from the Batesville High School basketball team (from left) Bob Vick, Stan Smith, Billy Smith and Bob Dunlap of the class of 1947, enjoyed an old team photo. About 270 people attended the first-ever reunion of all classes from Batesville High School over the weekend. Among alumni returning were representatives from classes from 1939 to 1963. See additional photos on pages A5 and A12.
Federal jurors get Shepard vs. city suit
By Billy Davis

A federal jury was deciding the outcome of a lawsuit late yesterday at press time brought against the City of Batesville by contractor Robert Shepard.

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The jury was expected to receive its final instructions from Judge Glen H. Davidson Monday morning following a trial that began last week in Courtroom 3 East at the federal courthouse in downtown Oxford.

Shepard filed suit against the City of Batesville and four construction companies in November, 2004, alleging his low bids were overlooked by street department superintendents in favor of his higher-priced competitors.

Witnesses for the City of Batesville alleged, however, that Shepard was difficult to reach when needed and was sometimes a no-show when he was reached, leaving them no choice but to call the next-lowest bidder to perform a job.

"When you’ve got a job that needs to be done now, you go to whoever you can get," water and sewer superintendent Ricky Shirey said from the witness stand Friday.

Shepard named Brocato Construction, W and W Contractors, Rebel Construction Company, and Evans Sand and Gravel as co-defendants in the lawsuit, but Davidson tossed out those suits at the beginning of court proceedings.

Shepard is represented by lead attorney Jim W. Waide and attorney Walter Brent, both of Tupelo.

The City of Batesville is represented by Daniel J. Griffith and Benjamin E. Griffith of Cleveland.

According to Daniel Griffith, the suits brought against Shepard’s competitors alleged secretive agreements between the city and the companies.

"Mr. Shepard alleged bribery and a cover-up, but those charges were thrown out," Griffith told The Panolian during a break in proceedings.

Waide acknowledged that the lawsuits had been tossed out but refused to comment on the bribery allegations, namely the use of the word "scheme" in his client’s complaint.

Waide said his client is seeking $45,000 from the City of Batesville to cover profits that Shepard stood to make.

Despite tossing out the other lawsuits, Davidson refused a motion by the City of Batesville to dismiss antitrust claims made by Shepard through his attorneys.

A computerized record of court filings shows 125 court documents have been filed by both parties since Waide filed the complaint on behalf of his client nearly two years ago.

Sardis teenager found with father, unharmed
By Jason C. Mattox

A Sardis girl who was reported missing on Sunday was found Thursday night in Pontotoc.

Ariel Copeland, 14, was reported missing last Sunday from her grandparents’ home at 311 East Lee St., where she lived, according to Police Chief Mike Davis.

Published reports quote both her grandmother and the chief saying this is not the first time the child has gone missing, but it was the first lengthy disappearance.

Davis said the report he was given from the child’s grandparents said she was missing Saturday night.

"We received a tip on Thursday that the child might be in the Pontotoc area, and my officers followed the lead," he said. "She was found to be with her father."

Davis said the child was not harmed and left her grandparents’ house on her own.

"She left on her own free will and accord," he said. "Since she was found to be with her father, the case is considered closed, and no criminal charges will be filed."

Davis thanked the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, Batesville Police Department and other agencies that assisted in the investigation.

"We followed leads and looked for the child in Sardis, Batesville, Courtland and several other areas, and were happy to find her unharmed," he said.

Students all over county get newspapers today
Over 2,500 editions of The Panolian today will be delivered to Panola County students in the fourth through seventh grades in one of the largest Newspaper in Education distributions in the state.

Eleven Batesville businesses, professional corporations, industries and banks have joined The Panolian to make sure that all fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh graders in Panola County receive a newspaper each Tuesday of the school year, The Panolian publisher John Howell said. They pay the cost of printing the extra newspapers and getting them distributed to the schools.

It is the second consecutive year of the massive Newspaper in Education distribution and is made possible by sponsors Charlie Baglan and Associates, Smith, Phillips, Mitchell and Scott, Covenant Bank, Dunlap and Kyle Company, Tri-Star Mechanical Contractors, Bancorp South, Batesville Casket Company, First Security Bank, Renasant Bank, Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association and Crown Cork and Seal Company.

Each Tuesday’s newspaper features the popular Kid Scoop page with word and number exercises for elementary, middle school and junior high students. An anti-littering message urging young people to make their parents aware of the unsightly littering along Panola roadsides will also be included in each Tuesday, Howell said.

Students in the fourth through seventh grades at Batesville Middle School, Batesville Junior High and Pope School of the South Panola system, North Delta School, and Crenshaw, Como Elementary and Green Hill elementary schools of the North Panola system will each receive a newspaper on Tuesday.

"This Newspaper In Education program would not be possible without the generous response of these sponsors," Howell said. "They not only respond to our request to join us as sponsors, they respond with enthusiasm and encouragement. It reflects a collective corporate sense of responsibility in Batesville that reaches out beyond consideration solely based on bottom line motivations," the publisher continued.

County reconsiders ‘stand alone’
     E-911 service
City budgets ‘could not stand’ strain
By Billy Davis

Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey found receptive ears and a rescinded vote Monday when he pleaded for cooperation from Panola County supervisors regarding a coming new E-911 dispatcher system.

Supervisors voted unanimously at their "second Monday" meeting to rescind a unanimous vote last week to purchase a "centralized" E-911 system rather than a so-called "stand-alone" system favored by Autrey and Sardis Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye.

The supervisors’ vote came after a 20-minute discussion with both mayors that remained cordial and light-hearted despite an obvious disagreement.

Panola County’s civil defense office is urging supervisors to upgrade the current dispatcher system due to a January 1 deadline set by Motorola that will make the current 13-year-old system obsolete.

The centralized system would place police dispatchers from Batesville and Sardis under one roof along with sheriff’s department dispatchers, and under the day-to-day management of Panola County government. The second stand-alone option operates similarly to the current system, allowing dispatchers to remain in the police departments in Sardis and Batesville and the sheriff’s department.

Both Autrey and Dye voiced support for keeping their dispatchers inside the city police departments, citing the non-budgeted cost to hire receptionists to handle off-the-street traffic.

Unlike the sheriff’s department, where dispatchers are housed in a separate building, the police dispatchers currently operate in a dual role by greeting and assisting the public.

"Our budget could not stand to let the dispatchers go," Autrey said, saying the cost would be at least $100,000 a year to hire receptionists.

"We cannot close (the police station) down at five o’clock," Autrey added.

"We can’t leave the police station unmanned ? no way," Dye later added.

Cost numbers provided by deputy civil defense director Daniel Cole show the centralized system will cost $176,978 while the stand-alone system will cost $278,313, a difference of $101,335.

"So the price is not three times higher?" asked District 4 Jerry Perkins, addressing an earlier misunderstanding.

"No sir, it’s not," Cole replied.

"It might not be three times higher, but it’s $100,000 higher," replied District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant.

Regarding that cost, Autrey told supervisors they should consider the cost of paying for several more dispatchers if the City of Batesville refuses to agree to the centralized system.

"I’m not threatening you, but we can’t afford to give you our dispatchers," Autrey said.

"We might be out $100,000 one time, but you are out $100,000 every year, and it goes up," Perkins told the Batesville mayor, summarizing the city’s financial situation.

"That’s right," Autrey replied.

When Avant suggested splitting the higher cost equally, County Administrator David Chandler volunteered to "look at the numbers" and report back.

At that suggestion, Avant suggested and received a unanimous vote to rescind their earlier decision.

Sardis audit pleases officials
By Jason C. Mattox

The City of Sardis came away from their latest audit with a favorable review.

"We really got a good audit back this time," Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye said. "This was the final audit for the previous administration."

The audit for 2005 was performed by Williams, Pitts and Beard of Hernando, and is necessary for the city to apply for federal grant funds.

"We received less grant money in 2005 than we did in 2004, which is one reason our revenue was a little off," City Clerk Odessa Johnson said.

The city’s total income for 2005 was $1.6 million versus $1.7 million in expenditures, she said.

Sardis had a beginning balance of $402,613 in 2005 and an ending balance of $262,927.

Dye said due to the increase in grants the city has received during fiscal year 2006, the city’s revenue should see an increase at the next audit.

"We have been out there trying to get as many grants as we can," Dye said. "We will also be receiving rent on the old Air Kontrol building that Steelmatic is in now."

The only finding discovered during the audit was that one police officer was not bonded as required by law.

"That officer is no longer with us or he or she would be bonded," Johnson said. "The board should be happy with this audit, it shows that our indebtedness is down over $100,000 even though our revenues are down from the previous audit."

Band calendars on sale now
The South Panola Bands will sell the annual Community Birthday Calendar August 17-September 7. Contact any member of the South Panola High School Band or any member of the eighth grade bands at Pope or Batesville Junior High. Calendar orders can also be taken by any of the band directors, or by Patsy Goodwin at Mason Printing.
Open house planned at new Como P.O.
The public is invited to attend the grand opening and open house at the new Post Office at Como on Thursday, August 24. The open house will be from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The ribbon cutting for the new office will be at
11 a.m.

The old Post Office at 113 North North Main burned on February 26, 2003. The Post Office then took residence in the old Library at 106 North Main Street. The new location is at 209 North Main Street, next door to Pointer Insurance.

All are invited to view the new office and visit with postal employees. There will also be a table set up for USPS on line.

Refreshments will be served by the Como Civic Club and the flowers will be donated by the Garden Club. District Manager Elizabeth Johnson and other post office officials will be present. Postmaster Steve Cannon invites all to attend.


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